WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — After shocking the nation in an upset victory over then-No. 2 Iowa a week ago, No. 25 Purdue football returned home to play in front of a sold-out crowd. After being ranked for the first time in 14 years, there was an opportunity to defeat Wisconsin for the first time since Oct. 16, 2003.
It had been 18 years since the Boilermakers bested the Badgers, and that didn’t change Saturday when Purdue turned the ball over five times and gave up 290 rushing yards in a 30-13 loss to Wisconsin at Ross-Ade Stadium.
“It was a disappointing day for us, and I’ll take full responsibility,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. “Obviously, I didn’t call a good game, and didn’t have our guys ready to play and didn’t have our guys understanding what it takes to really win at a high level in this conference, especially against good teams.”
Fifth-year senior quarterback Aidan O’Connell completed 24 of his 32 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw three interceptions.
A week ago, Purdue (4-3, 2-2 in the Big Ten) gave up one sack to the Iowa defense but allowed Wisconsin (4-3, 2-2) to secure six quarterback takedowns Saturday. O’Connell was under pressure for a majority of the afternoon, leading to some errant throws and missed opportunities.
“Hats off to them. They’re a great defense, smart, fundamental,” O’Connell said. “They were doing what they showed on film, they just did it very well. You just gotta play better, I can’t throw it to the other team. Gotta see things better, see things quicker and know when to take a shot and when to check it down.”
The Badgers opened the scoring on their second possession of the game, going 92 yards in 14 plays to reach the end zone and take a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter. The Boilermakers got their chance to equalize after recovering their first fumble of the season.
Junior cornerback Jamari Brown forced the ball away from Wisconsin freshman running back Braelon Allen, giving the ball back to the offense at the Badgers’ 39-yard line. Four plays later, O’Connell found junior tight end Payne Durham in the end zone for a 10-yard score, tying the game 7-7 at the start of the second quarter.
Durham was the team’s leading receiver, hauling in nine passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. He was Purdue’s primary target as the defense focused heavily on junior wide receiver David Bell, who recorded 240 yards receiving against Iowa.
“He's a steady hand for us,” O’Connell said of Durham. “He's our leader, vocal leader, and it's good to see him make some plays. I wish we could have gotten more from other guys, mainly myself, but Payne definitely flashed today.”
The scoring drive would be the only one attributed to the offense during the game. O’Connell threw an interception on two of the team’s final three drives to end the first half.
Following O’Connell’s first turnover of the game, Brown was sent on a cornerback blitz and forced his second fumble. The ball was scooped up by junior defensive end George Karlaftis, who rumbled down the field 56 yards for the first touchdown of his college career.
“I saw the ball come out and I was like somebody has to get it, there's a lot of black jerseys over there,” Purdue senior linebacker Jaylan Alexander said. “George was the one that picked it up and we just met him in the end zone. I feel like those types of things are what gives the whole fan section energy. It gives our sideline energy, gives the defense energy.”
The scoring play game Purdue a 13-10 lead. However, it was short lived as O’Connell tossed his second interception on the team’s next drive, giving the Badgers first-and-goal from the one-yard line.
Purdue stuffed Wisconsin on three straight plays, forcing a field goal that would tie the game before halftime. The Boilermakers never scored another point as the Badgers ran for 172 yards and scored 17 points in the second half.
O’Connell threw a third interception in the third quarter, which led to yet another touchdown for the Badgers. The team fumbled the ball twice in the second half and finished the game with just 206 yards of total offense.
Wisconsin sophomore quarterback Graham Mertz only needed to throw eight passes, completing five for 52 yards. The Badgers overwhelmed the Boilermakers' defense, recording 5.7 yards per carry on 51 attempts.
Purdue has scored 13 points in four games this season, and the loss marked the largest margin of defeat this season. The team will travel to Nebraska next week.
“I feel like we just didn't come up with more aggression than we needed to,” Alexander said. “Our intensity and our aggressiveness came down a little bit. We got a little lackadaisical, but it shouldn't happen.
“At the end of the day, we just gotta get better, we gotta know football is a 60-minute game. We've got to have intensity, aggression, the whole game from start to finish. We didn't come out with that in the second half, and you've seen what happened.”
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- PURDUE, WISCONSIN LIVE BLOG: The No. 25 Purdue Boilermakers were back in action Saturday following a victory over Iowa. They faced off against the Wisconsin Badgers at Ross-Ade Stadium Stadium. CLICK HERE